Saturday I attended the last of PFBC’s Sportsman Forums. Several presentations were given on various functions of the PFBC such as the un-assessed waters program, stocking program, law enforcement, engineering and maintenance (think dams, docks, and parking lots), as well as a detailed discussion on the budgetary needs. It also appears there is a big push to expand fishing as a sport and to try and get more people involved through various educational programs and marketing efforts. This seems like a step in the right direction to me.
I found it interesting that of the 6 forums, this was only the second where Representatives from the State’s Legislature were in attendance (Representatives Wheeland and Everett). Given the recent issues surrounding funding for the PFBC, the stocking program, and SB 935 (which is an attempt to forcibly remove Director Arway from his position by creating an 8 year term limit on the position and replace him with an appointee), one would think there would be at least some interest in the discussions at these forums. I guess it just goes to show how little fishing really matters to a lot of our elected officials despite the 1.2 billion dollars of revenue it generates in PA each year. I’ve been told Rep. Wheeland is in support of a funding increase for PFBC and opposed to SB 935. Rep Everett appears to also support a funding increase but believes Arway needs to go to get it, to the point of threatening to sue to make it happen (http://www.meadvilletribune.com/news/house-nears-vote-on-bill-targeting-fish-and-boat-chief/article_6c80ef91-8e28-57e3-8628-850076273864.html).
From the presentations and discussions before and after the forum, my take was that the direction PFBC would like to go in regards to trout is to phase out stocking of trout over wild trout and allocate those fish/resources elsewhere, i.e. areas of low to no wild trout presence in order to increase recreational opportunities and hopefully grow the sport. Obviously, this will not be an overnight undertaking as stocked trout are a big deal in PA. This is evidenced by the reaction to closing down a hatchery and removing 220,000 trout from the over 3.2 million PFBC stocks each year. I am not going to rehash my previous post from the Wild Trout Summit in its entirety, but want to again stress that this is going to take time and education as well as the wild trout crowd advocating for these changes. This includes making your voice heard to your Representatives on issues like allowing PFBC to control their license fees and killing bills like SB 935. Also, I encourage everyone to show up to meetings such as this and the one that occurred regarding Penns Creek a couple weeks back and let your voice be heard.